Review by Thomas Anderson, Editor-in-Chief, Literary Titan
“A Saint and a Sinner is one of the most riveting memoirs I have read this year. The story was a candid look at one man who battles his inner demons. Whether you are religious or not, you will definitely find this a thought-provoking read. The book is a real-life story that tells a truth most of us are not willing to accept – no one is sinless or perfect, even religious leaders. Donnelly’s story also proves that what we go through during childhood has a great impact on our character and the choices we make as adults.
For me, the book was an immersive experience. It took me into the world of a Catholic priest; their way of life, virtues, and challenges. It was also a page-turner – the chapters flow naturally and chronologically, and the story is so captivating that you will have a hard time putting the book down.”
Reviewed by Gail Kaufman – Indie Book Reviews
I have to admit my initial trepidation to read this book. Knowing it was the memoir of a priest, my thinking was that the narrative would not be relatable because I follow a different faith. I am glad I did not allow my concerns to stop me. The underlying themes are not only relatable but integral to our everyday lives on a conscious or subconscious level; mortal imperfection, remorse and forgiveness woven into the folds of the inescapable truth that our childhood experiences leave their mark on our core through adulthood.
Perfect Imperfection. I regret that I can only give five stars to this outstanding book. This beautifully written, insightful and painful story reaches a level of honesty few memoirs ever achieve. At no point does Stephen H. Donnelly turn away or flinch from the thorough self-examination of his life. Not once does he try to ‘sugar coat’ his crimes or transgressions or attempt to paint them as misdemeanors. His courageous honesty makes this a compelling read.
Reviewed by N. N. Light’s Book Heaven
“A tale that cried out to be told. There was a time when the people who took the vocation of Priest were placed on pedestals. By now, that aura has been removed. That alone shows some bad apples do indeed spoil the whole bunch.
This is a well-written book that exposes the frailty of the human spirit. I recommend this book to every Catholic on the globe. I also recommend it to anyone interested in a case study on human behavior.”
Reviewed by Jean Roberts -The Book Delights.com and Author of ‘A Kiss Behind the Castanets: My Love Affair with Spain’
“A Saint and a Sinner is the life story, the good, the bad and the ugly, of former Catholic priest, Stephen H. Donnelly. Stephen leads us through his memories of his formative years, growing up on Long Island, the son of a hard working, hard drinking father and a doting mother. At the age of 36, unmarried and with a recreational cocaine habit, Donnelly took the plunge and began training for the priesthood. Ordained at 42, Stephen embarked on a twenty year journey of self discovery. In that time he battled and conquered his addictions, struggled with his vows of celibacy and fought the demons that resided in his soul.
Readers Favorite – Viga Boland, Author of ‘No Tears for My Father’
As I read the last few pages of this courageous memoir, A Saint and a Sinner, I was overcome with a profound sadness that a man who’d fought so hard to win control over his various addictions and was helping so many people made one more bad mistake. That slip-up resulted in his dismissal from the Catholic Church.
In his honest and raw memoir, Stephen Donnelly shares details of his less than idyllic upbringing that resulted in his decision to become a priest. His great love of God, coupled with his genuine desire to serve God’s people, qualified him for the priesthood but…and it’s a big “but”…he was addicted to cocaine and eventually, alcohol. Worse yet, being celibate wasn’t possible as he was deeply in love with Camilla. Honestly, Hollywood scriptwriters couldn’t write a more eye-opening film script.
Reviewed by Brian Davis, Author of ‘Alcohol at the Family’s Soul’
“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26: 41) is the theme of this autobiography of a man whose calling to God and the Catholic church is the center of his life, yet, posed against this is the temptations faced by all men, which pull him away from his life’s mission. Stephen Donnelly, eventually “Father Stephen,” an enigmatic and “superstar priest,” traces his life from childhood on Long Island, significantly impacted by his alcoholic father, through the end of his ministry as a priest. In between, it raises many questions: the Catholic Church’s philosophy, past, present, and future; the life of priests; what they can and can’t do; what is the true meaning of good and evil, and what this means for priests and the church.
It is a story of his substance abuse; his efforts to conquer it; the impact of alcoholism on the family and his life; the spiritual beauty of God and Jesus Christ and how it called him from his “earthly” career; and the celibacy demanded of the priesthood, versus the natural relationship of a man with a woman.
These themes are both enticing and upsetting. On one hand, the reader is rooting for Father Stephen; on the other, its frustration, “why did you do that? The reader is taken up and down, presented with the good and the bad as the title implies, “the Sinner and the Saint.”
As Stephen deals with life on life’s terms, an AA term, he also has to accommodate the rigid moral code imposed by the church. As he saves his own life and so many others dealing with drug and alcohol abuse, and his charisma impacts so many in his ministry and community, eventually, he cannot escape his past. His ministry comes to an end…the justice of this result is best to be determined by the reader.”